Goals Create Motivation – Action Creates Progress

The small things we focus on can deliver the big things we dream about. This is the very point University of Dayton Head Basketball Coach Archie Miller made during an interview with Mike Hartsock of WHIO TV.

Hartsock: Do you still take your guys back to last year? “O.K. guys, remember what we had last year, what we went through last year?”

Coach Miller:  I think more so the path that we took, how we handled the path, not so much where the end result got, but… how much better did we get from February 22nd to March 15th… It’s finding a way to get your team to stay in the moment, of talking about, “Hey look! This was the path we were on. This is where we were a year ago men…think about how far we went; we can do it, too!”… Not so much about, “Do you want to do this again, do you want to do that again? Remember the little things that got us there.

– Archie Miller, Head Coach of Dayton Flyers Men’s Basketball Program; Broadcast, 3/1/2015

People are motivated by big dreams and goals if they believe the goals are possible for them. That’s a good start. But having inspiring goals is not enough. Goals are the measurable parts of a dream. Dreams become real from the execution of the right, moment-by-moment actions. Too much attention on the dream can distract us from doing the actions that produce the outcomes we expect.

Successful people know how to leverage the motivation of a dream to create the actions that get results. People who feel the high of an inspiring dream and consistently fail to take the necessary actions are adrenalin junkies.  From this interview, I conclude that Coach Miller understands this principle and leads his team accordingly.

 “The small things we focus on
can deliver the big things we dream about.”
— Clancy Cross

Good luck to the Dayton Flyers, Men and Women, in their upcoming tournaments!


The subject of “potential” continues to turn up in conversations, perhaps because people are becoming increasingly aware of its importance and sensing an urgency about developing it for the sake of their families and careers.  So, let’s spend a few moments reflecting on potential as a concept and finish up with a set of challenge questions to assess our own potential and how we can expand it.


Most of us have a limited perception about our ultimate potential that is based on how we perceive our current potential.  This is self-limiting at two levels.  First, we tend to underestimate the starting point — what we are capable of doing today.  Second, if we underestimate the potential that is presently within us, how can we be expected to recognize the scope of our potential 10, 20, 40 or more years into the future?  So, instead of projecting exponential increases in capacity, we merely add safely to an already understated starting point and arrive at a mediocre estimate that avoids risk and creates an uninspiring target.  Here’s the first question.  How can we see the stars when we’re looking at the ground?

Graphic - PotentialTRUE POTENTIAL

People everywhere are coasting along on the road to nowhere.  Until we regularly challenge our thinking and test the limits of our skills we will never discover the unused potential that’s already available and we will fail to develop new potential that is also within reach.  What we believe is our true potential is but a speck of what is possible if we simply adopt an attitude, strategy, and habit of continuous growth.  Here’s the next question.  What path will you choose, a life of existence or a life of significance?


Discovering how high we can rise in the future begins by recognizing and eliminating the traps we’ve set for ourselves.  One such trap is the habit of comparing ourselves with others.

“Always dream and shoot higher
than you know you can do.
Do not bother just to be better than
your contemporaries or predecessors.
Try to be better than yourself.”
— William Faulkner

Another potential-limiting behavior is ignoring the small things.  Sure, circumstances sometimes require us to skip over small details and move on and being a slave to perfection can also be a trap.  But, the habit of prematurely saying, “that’s good enough” is the most insidious habit because it steals growth opportunities.

What are your traps?  What’s keeping you from growing and realizing higher levels of your potential?


Think of discovering your potential as mining for gold.  It requires strategy, patience, persistence and hard work.  Would it be worth the effort if the results gave you access to life-changing levels of potential?

“You were born to win, but to be a winner,
you must plan to win, prepare to win,
and expect to win.”
— Zig Ziglar

Here are your additional challenge questions:  Where should I be looking for my gold?  What tools will I use?  What will I do today to start my mining expedition?  What opportunities are available to help me get started?  Who can help me stay on track?

Your Birthright of Empowerment

If you listen carefully, you will discover clues about a person’s belief system.  For example, in business when asked what we do for a living, we usually respond with our titles, especially when they contain power words like supervisor, manager, and director.  When I ask business students about their career goals, I frequently hear something like, “I’m looking for an entry level position so I can become a manager.”  When I ask them why, their response could be fairly paraphrased as “having a position that empowers me to tell other people what to do and when and how to do it.”  The underlying belief that graduates (and the rest of us) have is that our bosses wield power over us.  As the conversation continues, that belief would become more and more evident.

How do people with these titles get their power? Is the power real or merely perceived?  I’d say we perceive it from from the motivational practices of rewards and punishment (aka “carrots and sticks.”)  Assuming this is true, let’s imagine for a moment that there is a more effective way to motivate people?  How would that change our perception of the management function?

“It is inconceivable that people are motivated solely or even mainly by external incentives.”
— Bruno Frey

There is a growing body of research and literature suggesting that a management model based primarily on doling out incentives and dishing out penalties to control people is becoming obsolete.  In his book “Drive”, Daniel Pink explains why changes in modern society and greater understanding of human behavior are nudging us away from “carrots and sticks” approaches.  Carrots and sticks are still effective when used appropriately.  But, they not only have limitations, they can also be counterproductive.

“People use rewards expecting to gain the benefit of increasing another person’s motivation and behavior, but in so doing, they often incur the unintentional and hidden cost of undermining that person’s intrinsic motivation toward the activity.”
— Excerpt from “Drive”, by Daniel H. Pink, p. 39.

As it turns out, what we once believed about motivation is incompatible with how people are wired.  It is becoming more obvious that today’s workers, especially those doing highly technical and creative work, are self-motivated by the following desires: 1) self-direction (autonomy); 2) self-improvement (mastery); and 3) relevance (purpose).  Could a business model that leverages these native motivators really succeed or is this some new age fad doomed to fail?

“… the very notion of ’empowerment’ … presumes that the organization has the power and benevolently ladles some of it into the waiting bowls of grateful employees.”
— “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink, p. 91.

So, how does empowerment fit into this post?  In “How Am I Sabotaging My Future? (Part 11)” I wrote about empowerment in the context of professional development.  When I saw a summary of “Drive” on YouTube and read the book, I came to the conclusion that empowerment is our birthright AND is also “ladeled out” as described in the quote above.  Here’s how they both are true.  We’re born empowered.  Bit-by-bit, by submitting to the will of others and conforming to the demands of our institutions, we gradually delegate our inalienable birthright of empowerment.  Yet, we can never surrender it and we can always “undelegate” it.  In fact, NOT “undelegating” is itself an act of empowerment.  So, the connection between this post and the one cited above is simply this.  Engaging in personal development is one way we invoke our birthright AND enhance our ability to capitalize on it at the same time.

This perspective of empowerment is not intended to incite a revolution at work.  It is merely to help explain the inner turmoil you feel when your employer just doesn’t get what makes you tick.  You DO have the power to deal with this turmoil.  How?  That’s a subject for another day and a qualified career coach.